Jim Hodges (b. 1957)
From Our Side
silk flowers, thread and glitter
151 3/8 x 135 x 3 in. (384.4 x 342.9 x 7.6 cm.)
Executed in 1995.
Mark Foxx, Los Angeles
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1996
Lisbon, 7th bienal Internacional de Esculturae Desenho das Caldas da Rainha, June-July 1997.
Atlanta, Nexus Contemporary Art Center; Vancouver Art Gallery and Toronto, Power Plant Contemporary Art, Changing Spaces: Artists' Projects from the Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, September 1997-September 1998.
Odense, Kunsthallen Brandts Klaedefabrik and Pori Art Museum, Pattern: Between Object and Arabesque, September 2001-March 2002.
Columbus, Ohio State University, Wexner Center for the Arts; Contemporary Art Museum Houston and Newport Beach, Orange County Museum of Art, Landscape Confection, January 2005-May 2006, pp. 18, 20, 34-35 and 76 (illustrated in color).

Lot Essay

Jim Hodges' delicate and visually rich works are full of dichotomies. In From our Side the precisely stitched assemblage of silk flowers on the one hand conjures up a delicate, almost ethereal, aesthetic, yet on the other, through its monumental scale it becomes a powerfully physical piece, which acts as a boundary between the physical world that the viewer inhabits and an enticing, mysterious and secretive world of the imagination. Indeed, the cascade of intricately assembled flowers that tumbles to the floor recalls a waterfall with its sparkling kaleidoscope of colors reflecting the sunlight as it crashes to the ground while at the same time retaining the powerful forces of nature contained in the original. Jim Hodges' Flower works are among the most celebrated of his oeuvre, containing, as they do, the artist's signature concerns with the interrelations and connections between the physical and the spiritual.
Hodges first began making flowers after visiting his friend Felix Gonzalez Torres' exhibition at the Fabric Factory in Philadelphia. Like Gonzalez-Torres, Hodges was interested in depicting the inherent fragility of life, and with Gonzalez-Torres' encouragement, he began exploring the aesthetic possibilities of the motif: "I had this idea of returning the flowers back to fabric. I was interested in the history of each petal. How the material had been transformed: cut, painted, sculptured, and given a flower identity. I wanted to re-establish that material's fabric nature" (J. Hodges, quoted in I. Berry, "'You Ornament The Earth': A Dialogue with Jim Hodges," Jim Hodges, Saratoga Springs, 2003, p. 13). Flowers also held an important personal and symbolic meaning for Hodges. As an artist who came of age at the height of the AIDS crisis of the early 1990s, he was deeply affected by the devastation it brought to the gay community in particular. Flowers, with their long established historical associations with romance, life, and death, became a powerful representation of the dual sense of overwhelming love and devastating loss that Hodges, along with many of his contemporaries, felt at the time. As such, flowers became an important part of Hodges' artistic vocabulary and are central to many of his most important works, such as his room-sized installation, This Way In, 1999, at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.
Hodges favors working with domestic and unconventional materials, and as beautifully demonstrated by From Our Side, the attention to detail with which he lavishes his works is resplendently visible in its surfaces. The scrupulous and painstaking level of workmanship is clearly visible in the meticulous and labor-intensive activity with which Hodges celebrates the artisanal process. By cutting out and then stitching together thousands of silk flowers by hand, Hodges helps to emphasize the personal and human qualities for which his best works are known.
In addition to his celebration of process, Hodges also has a unique ability among his peers to transform the ordinary into visually poetic and arresting pieces that place importance on the notion of the individual finding their place in the world. Many of his titles, as in From Our Side, give the beholder a hint of spatial and perceptual direction, and thus become a part of their viewing environment. The curtain format that Hodges utilizes in this particular piece enhances this effect by insinuating that there is another world hidden behind the curtain, a world with which the viewer is encouraged to connect by investigating the possibility of its existence on the other side of the scrim. This spirit of interconnectedness and interdependency is matched formally in the interlocking flowers-separate but similar units conjoined by the artist just as we are united with his works.
Hodges executed his "curtain of flowers" motif in a number of different sizes and colors (many of which are contained within major museum collections), but the scale and the intensity of the colors in this particular example make From our Side an exceptional example of its type. A paler, looser version is located in the permanent collection of the San Francisco of Modern Art and a dark, somber black version is located in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. In stark contrast, the present work conveys a density, a broader spectrum of colors, and a greater expanse of individual flowers that perfectly encapsulate Hodges' intended goal of attempting to, as he describes it, "talk about the bigness of things, the wonder and the greatness of all life" (J. Hodges, quoted in D. Self, Jim Hodges: Welcome, Kansas City, 1998).
Many critics have described Hodges work as a "labor of love," but it is also his devotion to the material, the potential of the material, and its function as a quickening device for memory and recollection that makes these works unparalleled. The work opens onto multiple levels, becoming as beautiful and concrete as the presence and absence it represents while also securing an inherent delight in experiencing these flower works as beautiful through the artist's process and obvious devotion to his subject. As the artist states, "I'm motored by a need to be generous, to give more and be more. It's been my experience that beauty helps people, that adding beauty to the world makes it a better place" (Jim Hodges, comments from The California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) Alpert Awards, 2006).
From Our Side is a poetic work whose physical form gestures toward the heavens. Made with the intention of being suspended from the ceiling and cascading downward, it seems to speak from the artist's voice to a materially intangible being, perhaps above us in body and spirit. While the title of the work is directed to someone specific, that someone is conspicuously absent. Elegant and colorful yet spare and basic in form, From Our Side is fearlessly beautiful. Like many of his peers, generationally and socially, such as Robert Gober, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, and Donald Moffett, Hodges came of age in an era when many loved ones were lost to AIDS. Their response was to make works that measured love and loss by borrowing from the visual languages of Minimalism and Conceptualism to create works that were formally rigorous but also affectively personal and emotional. Of all the minimalist artists, Hodges seems to be the quintessential successor to the artist Sol Lewitt, who by far was the most generous in spirit of his peers. Hodges' own generosity is made manifest in the powerful sense of emotion and the warming beauty on offer to the viewer. The present work manages to attain a spiritual dimension by reaching skyward with the simplest but most elegant of materials. Like Hodges curtain works, spider webs, and paper napkin drawings, From Our Side has a strong sense of presence and way of embracing the viewer as if to make the personal a thing shared by all.

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